Profile: Thoroughbred Stock Exchange

April 1, 2016

There are some people who are so passionate about what they do and believe, it’s hard to keep their enthusiasm from rubbing off on you. We’ve all spoken to these types of people at some point, the type who let you know just where they stand and why, and just where you stand with them. This is a leadership quality and often a recipe for success. Without that type of passion and belief in one’s self, and what you are doing, your chance for success diminishes greatly. With it, it increases significantly.

Jonathan Lutton, who along with his wife Leslie, founded the Thoroughbred Stock Exchange is one of those people. His enthusiasm for The Sport of Kings hits you like a Joe Frazier left hook, or an unblocked blind side tackle by Lawrence Taylor. Baseball catchers are tough ball players, and also must be students of their game, so it came as no surprise to me when I learned Jonathan Lutton was a catcher at Malone University in Canton, Ohio, where they won The Christian Championship.

Back then Jonathan’s exposure to The Sport of Kings was limited to a wager or two on The Kentucky Derby each year. It was the only race he really knew about, and the only race he followed. That was going to change. Although it was one race, once a year, it was The Kentucky Derby and he felt the excitement and electrical atmosphere that surrounded it.

While working at a Human Resource outsourcing company, Jonathan met Leslie who mentored him, and ultimately they fell in love and married. Leslie was a horse person. A passionate and talented one at that. Although Jonathan probably did not know it at the time, Leslie’s passion for horses would spread to him as his spreads to others today.

Leslie in action
Leslie in action

Leslie was into Eventing on Olympic levels, and was a capable trainer and horsewoman. She also loved racing, and it was her love of racing and the historic track at the foothills of The Adirondack Mountains, Saratoga Racecourse, that was the catalyst of something very exciting that also happens to be great for our game.

There are many who talk about doing things that will benefit and grow our sport. Many are in agreement the game can return to it’s glory days when a Stakes Race got the attention and coverage of a major sporting event. Sure, we have many issues and obstacles, but that discussion is for another day. Today we’ll look at people walking the walk, making the investment and doing what they can to be part of the solution. When you look at how the poker craze exploded, it’s hard to imagine the decline in interest in The Sport of Kings, one of the greatest forms of athleticism and union of man and animal as one, and also the greatest skill gambling game in the world. When you factor in the popularity of fantasy sports, it becomes even more difficult to understand how we as an industry mismanaged ourselves into almost an afterthought. There is no more exciting fantasy sport than The Sport of Kings.

Jonathan and Leslie Lutton are not only exhilarated about horse racing, they understand the business aspects of it, while never losing sight of the love of the animals and the importance of their care. So where are we going, how did it start, and how do you get a chance at a free share in a racehorse?

Leslie loved Saratoga. Why wouldn’t she? Why wouldn’t anyone? She, however, had a reason many others that love the place don’t, and maybe never can or will, she won a race there. Winning at Saratoga, any race at Saratoga, is reaching the pinnacle of The Sport of Kings. It’s where everyone in the game has wanted to win since 1863 when they first started racing there. It’s never changed, it’s where anyone who’s anyone, or anyone who wants to be someone wants to win. Once you do, you’re part of a very long history in a very great sport.

With Saratoga being known as “The Graveyard of Favorites”, which by the way has no ominous overtone for the true horseplayer, it only makes sense Leslie’s winner was 30-1. Leslie and Jonathan were not yet married back when Ready’s Clyde shipped in to Saratoga from Suffolk Downs for veteran trainer Odin J. Londono Jr. While Leslie and Odin paid attention to Ready’s Clyde, not many others did. Leslie and Odin knew their horse had upset a Nick Zito trained shipper into Suffolk Downs in his previous start, and their thinking was, if we can beat a New York horse there, why not here?

This could be you
This could be you

Well, Ready’s Clyde apparently felt the same way, as he rolled to a nice win under Rajiv Maragh. Leslie came kind of full circle that day, from a background in Eventing and racing in small circuits, she was now a winner at Saratoga. After Jonathan and Leslie married, it was a natural progression for Jonathan’s interest in racing to grow, but it didn’t skyrocket until a fateful trip that would open a new door for The Sport of Kings, and possibly change the course of Jonathan and Leslie’s lives forever. At the very least, an exciting journey was about to begin. One YOU may become a part of.

IMG_3316Leslie convinced Jonathan to take a trip to Saratoga. That trip was what did it. Although Jonathan did his share of complaining along the way, once he got there everything changed. The ambience and presence that is Saratoga hit him immediately and he hadn’t even spent a day at the races. Once Jonathan saw the horses in the paddock, felt the anticipation of the races build, saw the competition on the racetrack, he knew he wanted to be a part of it. He realized The Kentucky Derby wasn’t the only horse race all year and he saw the magic of the game we all do. He wanted in, and he wanted everybody in. He thought to himself who wouldn’t want to be a part of this?

IMG_3317By the time the Lutton’s were driving back home to Michigan, Jonathan knew he wanted to be an owner. Leslie explained how tough the game was and went over all the pros and cons. Leslie mentioned partnerships, and they decided that might be a good way for Jonathan to get in the game.

Back home in Michigan, near their home track of Hazel Park, Jonathan started calling partnerships, and telling them he had some money to invest. He didn’t exactly get the responses he was looking for. He was told things like; expect to lose all your money, expect us to charge you fees for losing it, don’t expect to win, don’t expect to talk to the trainer, the trainer doesn’t want to hear from or update you, we’ll mark up every horse we buy and charge management fees as well. This is not what a smart businessman who wants to win and make money wants to hear.

Now to be fair, all partnerships are not operated this way. There are many good partnerships. There are partnerships that are fair, well managed, well intentioned, make money, look out for their investors, and offer a way into the game for both those who may not be able to otherwise, and those who want to start on a smaller scale. This is good for the game as well, but Jonathan did not find his way to one of these.

It was back to the drawing board for Jonathan and Leslie. They wanted in, and decided to do things their way, and offer partnerships in horses, but with some new and innovative ideas. Leslie came up with the name Thoroughbred Stock Exchange, and they decided to not only offer partnerships and the ownership experience, but to draw people into the game by making it fair, easy, and affordable. They also knew they’d need some other perks to separate them from the pack and make Thoroughbred Stock Exchange unique. Ultimately it evolved and was developed into something that has never been done like this in our game before.

Being good business people, and wanting to be profitable in a game where they were told “expect to lose your money”, they knew they needed a good business model. They knew they needed to be cost effective, and also win. With advice from associates Todd Stinson and Andy Cohen amongst others, and after doing their research and due diligence, their plan was hatched. They were going to offer shares in horses, for as little as $60 or $100 a share and allow people to buy in online in a fast, secure manner. You can buy or sell a share up to 5 minutes to post time. It can be done right from your smartphone or tablet.

Ownership licensing issues were minimized as Thoroughbred Stock Exchange owns the actual horse, investors simply buy a share or as many shares as they like. They don’t have to be licensed but will still get all the owner’s perks. They have paddock access as guests or shareholders. There is also a concierge service being offered which shareholders can use to make reservations at not only racetracks, but anywhere they may want to dine, visit, or stay while traveling to a particular track. This service through various arrangements Jonathan and Leslie have worked out with different venues, can at times make arrangements for paddock and backstretch access even if they don’t have a horse stabled at the track or racing that day. Shareholders can also visit the horses and talk to the trainers. It’s a total owner’s experience, with all the perks, all the excitement, and at the small cost of a share, or even free which we’ll get to shortly.

IMG_3315Once you own a share it’s yours to keep, or even sell, and if you sell, you set the price you think you can get. If you have a share in a horse where no additional shares are available, and the horse wins, you are obviously in a better position selling. There is a small transaction fee when you buy or sell a share, but there are no ownership expenses, mark ups, management fees, or any other expenses for the investor. The transaction fee, along with the horse’s earnings through racing, or even being sold should that occur, cover the expenses. Thoroughbred Stock Exchange retains 200 shares in each horse, and sells 800. They also have more buying and selling options and surprises they will be rolling out in the near future.

With this type of set up, Thoroughbred Stock Exchange has to buy horses at the right price, claim horses at the right level, and most importantly win, or run where they belong and can pick up checks. Cognizant of this, and always wanting to put the horse first, they have four trainers at present. Odin J. Londono Jr. who won for Leslie at Saratoga. They know he can get it done and also demonstrate loyalty. They have Mark Shuman, who trains at Fair Hill in Maryland. Fair Hill is known to be one of the best training facilities in the country. It also has easy shipping access to most if not all East Coast racetracks. Peter Walder also trains for them. Peter is consistently one of the highest winning percentage trainers in the country, and at every level of the game. From Stakes to claiming, Peter is especially adept with new acquisitions, be it through the claim box, private purchase, or transfer. He moves horses up, runs where they belong, and above all wins. Raymond Handal, an up and coming young trainer, who was an assistant for Anthony Dutrow, trains for them in New York. Raymond knows his way around good horses and what it takes to compete at high levels of the game.

With a well-rounded and talented team in place, Thoroughbred Stock Exchange is set up to succeed, and also bring new people into the game who, without them, may have never got there. They realize and even hope some of these people go on to larger ownership interests after having a positive experience.

In their short history Jonathan and Leslie have already generously reached out and given away shares in horses, and created memorable experiences for people. They plan to continue with that generosity and seek out fans they can convert from outside the rail, to inside the rail.

IMG_3313You often hear race trackers complain that not enough happens at the Global Symposium on Racing and Gaming. They are trying and demonstrative of that effort was their first Innovators’ Circle in 2015. They accepted entries from 8 continents and narrowed it down to 4 presenters at the conference. Thoroughbred Stock Exchange was one of the 4 finalists and although they did not win the $15,000.00 first prize, just making the finals shows just how innovative and well received their concept is. You can see more about the first Innovators’ Circle here

Taking it a step further, Jonathan during his study period for this venture, and Leslie with her horse background and experience, realized there are untapped resources to get competitive horses at reasonable prices. With the help of owner and trainer Leigh Backhaus, of Backhaus and Sons Ranch, they found horses racing in places like North Dakota where purses are miniscule, that can be competitive at the right level, in the right hands, on a bigger circuit. Leigh, a true old school and excellent horseman would know, and he was willing to share his knowledge and input. Any success they have with those horses will help that state’s stallions.

IMG_3311The Thoroughbred Stock Exchange website is super user friendly and all the information you need is at your fingertips. Access to all the horses and share prices, as well as links to pedigrees, pictures, and records is right there. You’ll see horses by stallions like Yes It’s True, Gemologist, Divine Park, and Lemon Drop Kid. Currently shares range from $61.80 per share up to $262.50 per share. There are even buy in share opportunities with other partnerships Thoroughbred Stock Exchange has bought into, like Pocket Aces Racing and Sage Racing. You just won’t find a concept like this anywhere in the game right now. You can visit this great website here but if you are passionate about The Sport of Kings, don’t be surprised if you own a share of a thoroughbred by the time you leave.

I always say owners and bettors are the ones who put money in the game, and Thoroughbred Stock Exchange nurtures both. There are not a lot of better feelings in sports than cashing a ticket on your own horse and having a win picture with you in it to memorialize it.

High Five

Calvin Borel, congratulations on a fantastic career, and thank you for the rail skimming memories. Best of luck in all your future endeavors, even if it’s just fishing. California Chrome, redemption in Dubai. X Y Jet, you ran too good to lose, a winner in our book for sure!

Low Five

None, but a few got passes this week.

Thank you Jonathan and Leslie Lutton for sharing your story, and your unique, history making entry into The Sport of Kings with Past the Wire.

Contributing Authors

Jon Stettin

Jonathan’s always had a deep love and respect for the Sport of Kings. Growing up around the game, he came about as close as anyone...

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Very well done piece by The King, John Stettin…

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